In Visible Learning for Teacher: Maximizing Impact on Learning, John Hattie describes the conditions that lead to identifying learning intentions and success criteria. He describes the learning equation as five variables that a teachers needs to understand and design around.
Challenge represents a design criteria that every teacher faces: designing a learning experience that is appropriately challenging for each student. Instead of designing a lesson that targets one level of challenge, differentiate the lesson to meet the readiness represented by the diverse learners in the classroom. The challenge has to be developmentally appropriate so that each learner stays engaged. Hattie writes about the challenge creating dissonance for the student such that errors occur in a supportive environment where the teacher is side-by-side with the student, providing guidance, support, and effective feedback.
Commitment is the second criteria required for mastery. Are students sufficiently attached to their goal(s) such that they are determined to fulfill their goal(s)? More importantly, has the teacher built into his or her structure, helping students identifying their learning goals? If the challenge is appropriately designed, students understand what is required to master the learning, and they are committed to achieving their goals, then learning will take place at a high level.
Confidence is the third criteria for mastery. Learning is a social enterprise. A teacher who understands and recognizes the importance of the social nature of learning will design learning experiences that facilitate peer-to-peer interactions. Hattie writes about building confidence in learners helps them develop resilience in the face of appropriately challenging tasks.
With respect to student expectations, Hattie writes:
The message is that teachers need to provide opportunities for students to be involved in predicting their performance; clearly making the learning intentions and success criteria transparent, having high, but appropriate, expectations, and providing effective feedback. (page 53)
His research has demonstrated that students, when encouraged to be partners in the assessment process, will accelerate their learning. Do we believe students have a reasonably accurate sense of what they know, such that including them in the assessment process is a viable option? This is a question all teachers need to take on.
Finally, conceptual understanding is the last criteria in the design for mastery learning. Hattie has discovered that most test items that teachers use in assessments are “surface-level” items. That is, they are not designed to build deeper learning or conceptual understanding on the student’s part. Hattie references the SOLO (structure of observed learning outcomes) model of Biggs and Collis (1982). In this model, they break down conceptual understanding into four levels: (1) an idea; (2) many ideas; (3) relating ideas; and (4) extending ideas. It is clear that in designing great lessons that lead students to a deeper conceptual understanding of content, teachers need to scaffold a lesson to help students move from learning ‘an idea’ to extending their understanding to connecting seemingly unrelated ideas. Transfer of knowledge and understanding from the simple to the complex should be a design criteria for constructing high-quality learning environments.